Government promises a ‘New Deal for Renters’
After a three-year wait, the government finally released its New Deal for Renters, the fairer private rented sector White Paper, last week.
1.7 million Disabled people in the UK are renting privately. And with recent investigations by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism highlighting huge housing inequalities and barriers faced by Disabled people, the paper was highly anticipated by many of us.
Key measures in the White Paper include:
Abolishing ‘no-fault’ Section 21 Evictions, these had previously allowed a landlord to evict their tenants with just two months’ notice without having to give them a reason.
A shift from predominantly six to twelve-month tenancies to open-ended ones to provide renters with more security.
A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court.
A blanket ban on landlords refusing to rent to people claiming benefits.
The right to have a pet which landlords cannot “unreasonably deny”.
Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy Officer said: “Disabled people across Britain have been waiting for a restoration of their housing rights for more than 30 years. Although we welcome the abolition of Section 21 and the blanket ban to stop landlords from refusing to rent to those claiming benefits, we are still awaiting changes that would make the private rented system fairer and more accessible for Disabled people.
“We will be paying close attention to this Bill as it moves through Parliament. As it stands, the White Paper does not mention improving access to the Disabled Facilities Grant or any new regulation to support Disabled people to access the adaptations they need. Disabled people will have to continue to wait for basic changes to our homes, which would enable us to live independently and safely.”
ULEZ charges to affect Disabled drivers
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan is consulting on plans to widen the ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) to cover most of Greater London.
The ultra low emission zone was launched in 2019, initially covering the same area as the congestion charge. It was designed to clean up London’s air pollution with vehicles meeting strict emission standards to drive in the capital. In 2021 the zone was expanded again, from central London up to (but not including) the North Circular and South Circular roads.
ULEZ targets older vehicles that are less environmentally friendly. Although Motability vehicles are unlikely to be affected, many disability groups are worried about how this expansion will impact Disabled Londoners. Disabled drivers who live in or travel to the capital who have a car registered with the DVLA as having a Disabled tax class or a Disabled passenger vehicle tax class would not have to pay the new ULEZ charge (which would cost drivers of high polluting vehicles £12.50 per day) until October 2027. However, those who hold a blue badge but do not qualify for the vehicle tax exemptions would need to pay the new ULEZ charge every time when driving in the capital.
DR UK Policy Adviser Dan White said: “Coming at a time of rising costs and poverty amongst the Disabled community, having to pay an expensive daily charge feels like another financial hammer blow.
“Although having access to cleaner air is a real health benefit to Disabled people, being able to travel freely and easily is just as beneficial. There has been little consultation with the Disabled community on planning the ULEZ extension and the impacts involved. We would prefer to see no barriers in access for any Disabled driver, and an exemption from the ULEZ charges and fines for blue badge holders.”
Disability Rights UK will be attending an online conference on the subject with members of the London Disabled People’s Organisation, Inclusion London, and representatives from Transport for London on the 27 June. If you have any questions for the conference, please email dan.white@disabilityrightsuk.
Access to electric vehicles
The Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030. The ban will affect everybody including Disabled motorists.
The public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is completely inaccessible to many Disabled motorists, according to Disability Motoring UK. It is thought that around 40% of households will not have the facilities and/or access to have an at-home charging point installed, so will be reliant on the public charging infrastructure. With the fastest rapid charge taking at least 20 minutes, a big proportion of the population will have to completely change how they power/charge their vehicles instead of relying on pump-and-go refuelling.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Many Disabled people will struggle with having to wait for between twenty minutes and a few hours to charge their vehicles. Waiting is regarded as a passive activity for non-Disabled people, but for many Disabled people, it is an active activity which can increase pain and fatigue, and exacerbate impairments. It is vital that the Government recognises this and ensures that recharging points are building better access and facilities for Disabled people into their mix.”
Disability Motoring UK is running a survey on recharging to gauge the full extent of the impacts on Disabled people. The survey will remain open until September.
Wheelchair user has to drag himself up rail station stairs
A wheelchair user was forced to drag himself, his wheelchair, and his luggage up stairs at a railway station after being refused help by station staff quoting ‘health and safety’.
Chris Nicholson, an athlete and spokesperson for the Myprotein sports brand, was attempting to travel to London on Friday, the hottest day of the year so far, when the incident took place at Milton Keynes station.
The lift was broken, it was 31C, and Nicholson said staff told him they couldn’t help because of “health and safety policies and they would be at risk if they helped me”. In an Instagram post, he said: “People like myself who have different varying abilities to an able-bodied person should have the rights to access all amenities, like anyone else. Doesn’t matter if you are in a wheelchair, if you are on crutches – you should be able to access it.”
Anna Morell, DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager said: “Help on public transport is a goodwill lottery. Disabled people are too often quoted ‘health and safety’ as the reason for refusing help. Often, issues are with train companies who fail to maintain clear communications when infrastructure breaks down to allow adjustments to be made. Although sometimes staff refuse to help Disabled people with reasonable adjustments, again quoting health and safety. These processes and attitudes leave passengers stuck, at risk of missing trains, or worse, risking injury and further impairment. Railway companies have a duty to ensure that Disabled passengers can get from A to B safely, with service levels that are as high as those provided to non-Disabled passengers.”
Airports must do more to help Disabled passengers
A Disabled man has died at Gatwick airport after becoming frustrated at waiting for passenger assistance.
The man was one of three Disabled people being assisted by one operative at Gatwick. After entering the terminal by himself, he fell down an escalator and died.
Wilson James, the firm contracted to provide assistance at Gatwick issued a statement saying: “A member of Wilson James staff was waiting when the aircraft arrived and was in the process of disembarking the three PRM [passengers with restricted mobility] passengers when the incident occurred.
“Staff shortages were not a factor in this incident as has been claimed. It is normal for one staff member to disembark three passengers who require assistance by taking them one at a time the short distance to the waiting buggy.
“A formal investigation is currently under way and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
The incident is one of a growing number of failures to support Disabled people which has been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority. The Guardian has run a report this week with several personal testimonies from Disabled people, including being left with slow or no assistance, mobility equipment disappearing leaving Disabled people housebound, and instances of the pilot needing to escalate requests for help to avoid Disabled passengers being left stranded.
Stories from Grenfell
The News Movement has produced a powerful film about the Disabled residents of Grenfell Tower. Some viewers may find aspects of the film distressing. Hear the stories of Grenfell residents on youtube.
Charity workers paid below the real Living Wage
One in seven (14.1%) third sector workers are paid below the real Living Wage, with over three quarters of the public backing them to receive enough to live on, according to a new report by the Living Wage Foundation.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic combined with rising living costs has left many third sector workers, including those in the disability sector, struggling to keep their heads above water. Despite increased demand for services, the report warns that low pay is harming workers within the sector and threatening the stability of the services they provide. Read more on the Living Wage report here.